Interest in hypoxia has escalated rapidly as the extent of the event has grown. Local, state, and federal researchers and agencies consider the consequences and how to plan in the future. PISCO scientists and policy coordinators have engaged in a wide variety of activities to help inform these processes.
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Unlike the dead zones in estuarine systems that are caused in large parts by excessive nutrient run-offs from land, the Oregon dead zone forms along the open coast where coastal winds drive ocean currents that upwell nutrient-rich but oxygen-poor waters from the deep sea onto the shallow reaches of the continental shelf. This upwelling of nutrients further fuel phytoplankton blooms that eventually sink and decompose to further reduce oxygen levels in the already low oxygen waters along the seafloor. Hypoxic zones along the Oregon coast form seasonally, and can begin in late spring/early summer in response to the onset of upwelling-favorable winds from the North. Hypoxia can persist through the summer months and ultimately recedes for the year during the Fall when winds again shift direction and promote ocean currents that flushes low oxygen water off the continental shelf.
PISCO scientists are involved in studies to monitor hypoxia off the Oregon coast. Researchers are currently tracking the position and duration of the low-oxygen water, developing models to help understand and predict its occurrence, testing new instruments designed to provide near-real time measurements of ocean conditions, and evaluating the likely long-term impacts of the hypoxia.
Photos of research during hypoxic events off Oregon Coast
Video: footage of Cape Perpetua in 2000/01 under normal conditions. Followed by footage of Cape Perpetua in 2006 during hypoxic conditions. From Chan, FC et al. 2008. Emergence of Anoxia in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Science, vol 319. www.sciencemag.org
Chan, F., J. A.Barth, J. Lubchenco, A. Kirincich, H. Weeks, W.T. Peterson, and B. A. Menge. 2008. Emergence of Anoxia in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Science 15 February 2008 vol 319. www.sciencemag.org
Grantham, B. A., F. Chan, K. J. Nielsen, D. S. Fox, J. A. Barth, A. Huyer, J. Lubchenco, and B. A. Menge. 2004. Upwelling-driven nearshore hypoxia signals ecosystem and oceanographic changes in the northeast Pacific. Nature 429:749-754.
Barth, J.A., B.A. Menge, J. Lubchenco, F. Chan, A. Kirinich, L. Washburn, M. McManus, J. Bane, K. Nielsen, and S. Pierce. Delayed upwelling alters nearshore coastal ocean ecosystems in the northern California Current. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2007 104:3719-3724.
Glenn,G., R. Arnone, T. Bergmann, W.P. Bissett, M. Crowley, J. Cullen, J. Gryzmski, D. Haidvogel, J. Kohut, M. Moline, M. Oliver, C. Orrico, R. Sherrell, T. Song, A. Weidemann, R. Chant, and O. Schofield. 2004. Biogeochemical impact of summertime coastal upwelling on the New Jersey Shelf. Journal of Geophysical Research. 109. C12S02, doi:10.1029/2003JC002265
Buck, Eugene. Marine Dead Zones: Understanding the problem. CRS Report for Congress, Nov 2006.